In previous posts, Lacey and I have mentioned that we are working toward our goal of traveling to, and staying in an over-the-water bungalow in Moorea, Tahiti….for free. Yep, we have been stacking credit card points for flights and hotels for about 5 months so far to try and make this happen. Why are we going through so much trouble to get this trip for free? It’s simple. We literally would never, ever, EVER be able to afford a trip like this if we paid for it out of our own pocket. These over the water bungalows in Tahiti can cost up to $1300 per night. Tack on another 2k per person for flights and you’re looking at spending $10,000 for a 5 night stay in Moorea…and this isn’t even taking in account the cost of food (which I’ve heard is insanely expensive there) and/or the cost of excursions/entertainment. So more than likely, for 2 people, this trip could cost over $15k.
If Lacey and I are ever going to Tahiti…it HAS to be for free… or at least HIGHLY discounted.
Here’s where the credit card rewards points come in to play. After spending a few months learning from credit cards reward blog sites such as The Points Guy, I put together a plan to try and get Lacey and I to Tahiti for free.
- First, I researched the best reviews for over-the-water bungalows in Tahiti and the hotel chains that owned these bungalows. While there are a few that have amazing reviews and pics (InterContinental Thalasso, Hilton Bora Bora Nui, The Four Seasons), we decided to go with the Hilton Moorea. We chose this one for a few different reasons.
- 1 – there are a number of Hilton Credit Cards available with solid spending bonus reward offers (aka, a lot of bonus points available to earn for Hilton)
- 2 – the Hilton Honors program partners with other non-Hilton credit cards allowing for quick/easy points transferring into your Hilton Honors account. The Virgin Atlantic, Hawaiian Airlines, and Citi ThankYou cards are a few off the top of my head.
- 3 – While Bora Bora reviews as the fanciest of the Tahitian Islands, it is also a little trickier to get to than the island of Moorea which is where we’re trying to go. We would lose at least a full day’s worth of travel time getting to Bora Bora. As you all know, paid vacation days at work are valuable and no one should waste one sitting in an airport or sleeping in a shitty airport hotel for a night while you wait for your connecting flight.
- 4 – Again, while Bora Bora is fancier, we also learned it is more secluded. Meaning that there aren’t as many other exploring options in your direct surroundings. As torturous as it sounds (sarcasm), you would be stuck in your bungalow and/or resort for pretty much every activity you wanted to do. Lacey and I want to see some local life and have the option of getting groceries from local markets, etc. Maybe do some hiking and what not.
- Second, I investigated the approximate amount of points we’d need for a free night at the Hilton Moorea. You can do this by going to the Hilton Honors site and typing in your desired resort location and clicking the box that says “Use Honors Points” box before hitting search. I looked through the entire year’s worth of results to see if there were high seasons and low seasons as far as costs go. There were and there usually are at most hotels. Keep that in mind while planning but also keep in mind that the low season is the low season for a reason. Sick rhyme bro. In other words, the low season probably has shitty weather or something.
- Third, I went back to the Hilton Credit Cards site and mapped out which cards would get Lacey and I to our points goal the quickest. I also investigated Hilton Honors credit card partners and found out that the Citi ThankYou Premier card transfers points into the Hilton program at a 1:2 ratio from now until the end of January, 2016. So 50k Citi ThanYou Premier points will get you 100k Hilton points. Killer timing for this particular trip.
Toward the beginning of the planning process, I ran in to some more unexpected good news. I learned that if you book 4 consecutive nights at a Hilton resort using rewards points, you receive a 5th night for free. This was super good news considering it would take us a couple of months to earn enough points for 1 night. This just shaved off a bunch of planning time.
More good news was when I found out that the Hilton Reserve card does not reward you with points when you hit your spending bonus….they give you 2 weekend night certificates instead. This is HUGE for the trip we are trying to make. To better explain this one I’ll tell you that most reward bonuses are around 50-75k points and they can take anywhere from 2-3 months for Lacey and I to reach with our spending habits. The bungalows we are trying to stay in will require upwards of 90k bonus points PER night. So the Hilton Reserve weekend certificates (for where we are going to use them) will be worth 180-200k points. So if you’re trying to stay at a really expensive Hilton Hotel, this is the card you need to get.
So where are Lacey and I at in the planning process? Well, our goal continues to be to earn enough points for 7 free nights in Moorea, Tahiti. As of today, we have 4 weekend night certificates and about 200k points. We need at least 200k more points before I even think about making the call and try to book anything. We already have the next 100k points in our sights with the awesome Citi ThankYou transfer promotion (mentioned above) headed our way. For the next 100k + points we’ll need after that? Who knows right now? I’m crossing my fingers there will be another promotion linked with Hilton that can get us there.
Wish us luck and best luck to you all if you’re trying to plan a similar trip!
Final note…if you’re new to this…please research best practices for signing up for and using credit cards. Educate yourself on what all effects credit scores in order to maintain a healthy one.